Getty your hand out of my wallet – some way to go on open access, I fear

The Getty Museum laudably makes some images available online.  Some of these (but not all) may be freely used for personal purposes online.  Most of the images on their site are NOT usable by anyone else, and they want money if we want to use any of them for scholarly purposes.

This simple statement is the outcome of some correspondence, which is worth detailing since I found the statements on their website confusing.

The Getty holds a statuette of Mithras riding a horse.  I’d give you a photo of this – they have one here – except that I can’t.  They want $15 if I let you see it.  Don’t worry, it’s not very special.  It’s probably not even Mithras.  But rather annoying that I can’t just post a picture here.  The object is not on display either, or I’d ask someone to go and take a photo.

But it gets more interesting.  Originally I gave the wrong link, to another item.  I got back:

We could agree to your request, but there would be a scholar rate fee of $15.00 to provide an image file and permission to publish the image on your site.  …

If you do decide to order the image and obtain permission to publish it, here is a link to the Museum’s rights & reproductions information page:

Links to our order forms are at the bottom of the information page.  You would need to complete the form entitled Terms of Use for Electronic Media or Television/Film/Video.  Please note that even if there was an image on our website, we would ask you to complete this image and permission request form, and there would be a $15.00 fee.

Their “information page” was rather uninformative about permissions, which is why I had to write and ask.  But of course if they have to do some work to make an image, then the $15 fee is reasonable.  I fear, however, that making the image for them is something they would charge for again.

Once I gave them the right link, the answer was the same – $15 please.

I am a poor scholar.  They are a very rich institution.   It’s a bit rubbish for them to try to charge scholars for this.

What I’m doing is making a catalogue of all Mithraic monuments and items.  Why is it in the interest of the Getty to obstruct scholars doing this?

Basically you can’t use their images in any way.  Which is rather silly.

Still at least they have put an image of the item online.  And they are starting to make some of their images available for use by the great unwashed. I would guess that some people at the Getty understand that open access is the way.  But others haven’t got the message.

No doubt they will see that it makes no sense – and just irritates – to demand fees that nobody will pay to use images that nearly nobody cares about.

I would suggest that they do what the Walters have done, and allow ordinary people to use the images (suitably attributed) so long as money isn’t involved.  Nobody won from trying to stiff me for money.


Leave a Reply